At 07/07/98 23:12:31, Mark Weiss <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
# I'm afraid I see your point, but:
# 1. Since in the process of acquiring literacy and reading for pleasure
# much of the training for a poet in any culture in no culture does it
# require as much formal (as opposed to casual) training to produce a poem
# to produce a symphony. No matter how much I listen to Beethoven for
# pleasure I'm not in that act going to learn either notation or formal
# 2. Any idiot if he tries long enough can turn out a tolerable sonnet (a
# great one is another matter), because there are prescribed rules and a
# defined meter. That's why for so many centuries poetry could be a parlor
# game for amateurs as well as a medium for poets. Open form is much more
# mysterious and can only be learned, by the talented few, through years
# practice. The music of one's own language must become so internalized
# one develops an inner standard to match one's words to. No easy
# if each poem is a unique formal invention. In effect, the poet dances
# dance with the grace of Fred Astaire, and although each dance has never
# been danced before there's nothing random about it.
# Either you've only been exposed to the prating of amateurs or, as I
# suspect, you've failed to apply yourself sufficiently. As if I were to
# complain that all formal poetry was banal because advertizing jingles
# pop songs were all I listened to.
I've had various thoughts around this subject, summarised as follows:-
1. Language is universal, and it does appear that "anyone can write
poetry", but do they want to? And are they given the opportunity? If they
aren't, and I suspect there are counter-currents against "anyone can write
poetry", then this is understandable in terms of "control" and "conflict"
and "officially proscribed languages", but not desirable and certainly
worth bucking against.
2. The comparison to conductors and orchestra is, I think, valid, although
the tone in the original quote is suspect. In my perfect world, everyone
would be encouraged to write, but not everyone would want to, and there
would still be competition for finite resources (magazines, presses etc).
In the "real world" things are skewed still further against writing and
publishing poetry, as RIC pointed out. I think that the anxieties felt by
those who feel that the "entry qualifications" into poetry are low, is a
side-effect of this competition for resources, but see point 5 below.
3. I think that the perfecting of their poetry by an individual is a hard
slog, no matter what form they choose to write. Open form harder than
sonnets? I think not. A great sonnet is as hard to write as a great piece
written in open form.
4. Having no formal standards in poetry is, I think, a good thing. It
prevents hierarchies forming, stasis happening etc etc. I tend towards an
agricultural view of the poetic community: growth and nurturing, a
darwinian thing where forms, schools, poets rise, light up the darkness
then fade. But to have all this happening, fresh fodder has to arrive at
regular intervals. The "prating of amateurs" might turn, in some, to the
measured and deeper comments of the "professional".
5. This agricultural view of the "poetry industry" must, of neccessity,
threaten those who have spent years nurturing their skills. But a little
competition is a good thing, no?
6. Random banging on a piano could well be a composition of sorts.
# At 01:55 PM 7/5/98 PDT, you wrote:
# >>From: "Roger Day" <[log in to unmask]>
# >>But the cab drivers and the libraries have one thing in common:
# >>It might not be a common language, but it's language none the less.
# > Yes, this obviously was the point of the original quote. Any
# >speaker can by virtue of speaking English create an utterance which
# >be accepted as a poem, but only people with appropriate formal training
# >can create something which will be accepted as a symphony or a piano
# >performance or an aria.
# > But it needs to be added that this is true only in our culture in
# >present state. There have been all kinds of cultures in which the
# >production even of a line of poetry requires just as much formal
# >knowledge and training as the production of music. In such cultures,
# >presenting any random though meaningful statement as a poem would be as
# >absurd as if I were to bang away at random on a piano and call it a
# > I don't see that this lack of formal standards in poetry has done us
# >much good.
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